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A near perfect springtime evening provided the backdrop for this delightful choral concert celebrating the genius of Mozart, given in Memorial Hall. Over a hundred eager singers from the community chorus Voices, under the leadership of Dr. Sue T. Klausmeyer, joined by a chamber orchestra of local musicians and four outstanding soloists, provided an evening of pleasure and inspiration.
Much of Mozart's early music was written for the courts and cathedrals of Salzburg under the oversight of Bishop Colloredo, with whom the adventurous young composer had numerous disagreements regarding the composition and performance of sacred music. Regina Coeli, K.108, the first of three settings of this antiphon in praise of the Virgin Mary, was written in 1771, when Mozart was 15 years old. It consists of four movements; the first for choir and orchestra and the following three movements for soprano solo and chorus. The soloist was Molly Quinn, a native of Chapel Hill who now resides in New York. Her rich natural soprano soared through the solo passages with tender beauty and genteel operatic embellishments. The chorus was well prepared and sang with a smooth lyric flow. This celebratory music sparkled in this performance
The concert continued with a rendition of one of Mozart's iconic gems: "Laudate Dominum" from Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, K.339. This haunting lyrical selection was sung with subtle expression by Quinn, matched beautifully by the full chorus in the verse sung by them.
The featured work on the program was the famous Requiem in D minor, K. 626. Only about a third completed at the time of the composer's death, his wife, in desperate need of finances, frantically sought arrangements to have it completed and collect the promised commission. She finally settled on her husband's former student and assistant, Franz Süssmayr. Using notes, scraps of paper Mozart left behind, and his knowledge of the master, he completed a version that for many years was the standard edition of the Requiem. However, dissatisfaction with this edition was often expressed; many Mozart scholars felt that Süssmayr failed to capture the essence of Mozart in the passages he completed. Many efforts have been made to correct these inadequacies. One of the more successful additions is that by Robert Levin. It seeks to revise as little as possible of the established edition; the goal, through critical research and comparison with Mozart's known church music, was to prepare an edition that reflects more accurately the genius and charm of Mozart. This is the version performed in Chapel Hill.
The Levin edition has some persuasive achievements going for it. He has applied a very light touch, seeming to assume that much of the Requiem already possesses Mozart's underlying essence, and he has just removed some of the more heavy-handed Süssmayr material, replacing it with more convincing Mozartian motifs and instrumentation.
The performance by the artists at hand was mostly outstanding. The opening Introit was alive with emotion and weight, and the Kyrie was insistent in its cry for mercy. The chamber orchestra did an outstanding job under Klausmeyer's direction, providing a balanced coloring of Mozart's creation. These first two movements are undoubtedly from his hand and give us a glimpse into the art of an undisputed genus.
As gorgeous as the choral singing and the orchestral playing was, the ensemble portions of the Requiem were something special. Quinn, the soprano, along with mezzo-soprano JoAna Rusche, currently performing with the Palm Beach Opera Young Artist Program, widely experienced tenor Dana Wilson, a native of New Orleans and a graduate of Loyola, and bass Lewis Moore, well-known to Triangle audiences, combined their voices as though they had been singing together for some time. The well-matched quality and strength of their voices provided exceptional pleasure. Whether singing in counterpoint or in homophonic harmony, the blend was exceptional. The Recordare was deeply moving and richly realized, as one example.
Other familiar passages stood out: the wondrous Tuba mirum, the powerful Rex tremendae and Sanctus, the haunting Lacrimosa, all of it speaking to our need in our time, all of it performed with heart and soul. What a generous gift that Mozart lived among us for a few years and left such treasures!
Voices' smaller chorus performs June 8, at UUMC. For details, click here.